A campaign aiming to tackle sexual violence through youth workshops has delivered two theatre projects in collaboration with Wandsworth Council.
Unblurred Lines was set up in 2016 by co-founders Lauren Nathan-Lane and Emily Dyer, who met while studying the Applied Theatre MA course at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
The community theatre company aims to combat sexual harassment, assault and the exploitation of women and girls. Fun activities and games are used to encourage age-appropriate discussions around topics including consent, online safety, abuse and child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Ms Nathan-Lane said: “I went on a night out with some friends and spent the whole time being sexually harassed by drunken men. It made me think about the kind of messages being sent out to young people about how to engage in healthy and equal relationships where all parties involved felt comfortable and safe.”
Ms Dyer said: “I was fed up of hearing stories about women being sexually assaulted all over the world, and with the young girls I know in my life not being safe when they were online or not realising when they were being mistreated. We both just thought, enough is enough!”
They decided to use their combined community theatre training to make a change in young people’s lives, and address the lack of relationship education they had experienced growing up.
Having initially worked with local authorities in Slough, Unblurred Lines approached Wandsworth Council in early 2018 to initiate a six week project in a pupil referral unit in September. During the sessions, students learned drama skills and utilised these to deliver a performance to their peers, teachers and members of the council on healthy relationships or grooming.
In March 2019, they started a second project with a group of teenage girls referred by the council, which focused on upskilling girls in drama and film, and building self-esteem and confidence.
A spokesperson said: “The aims of both projects were similar; to increase knowledge and understanding around consent, to show young people the warning signs of grooming and/or an unhealthy relationship, and to provide space and time for young people to discuss their rights and responsibilities within different kinds of relationships.”
A range of techniques are used to make students feel at ease. These include playing games, acting out different scenarios to problem-solve potential issues and allowing students to lead the sessions as much as possible.
The spokesperson added: “Our upmost concern with all our sessions is keeping children safe, and we need them on side if we want to have a productive conversation.”
The theatre-makers also work closely with teachers to better understand the issues children are facing, and stay up-to-date with changes in policy and curriculum around sex and relationships education. They are currently devising ways to better integrate parents into such conversations, including options such as workshops, talks or informational videos to watch at home.
The projects have proved a success with the young people taking part.
Artistic directors Emma Lamond and Imogen Cahill explained how during the film sharing after the most recent project in Wandsworth, the participants spontaneously got up on stage to talk about what the project meant to them. One young person said the project gave her the tools and space to express her thoughts and emotions in a safe way.
“We’d love to continue working in the borough of Wandsworth and south west London more widely. We believe there is still more work to be done, and we’re also looking to expand outside of London so watch this space,” a statement said.